Sept. 21, 2013

Opportunity is a circumstance often difficult to recognize. It occasionally passes without proper realization or appreciation.

Despite developing into one of the top playmakers for the Ohio State men’s hockey team and leading the CCHA in scoring last season, Tanner Fritz has never lost sight of the opportunity he has been presented. A native of the northernmost city in Canada, Fritz hopes to become the first member of his immediate family to earn a college degree.

Fritz grew up in northwestern Alberta in the town of Grande Prairie. With oil providing an economic pipeline for the community, most of Fritz’s family and friends are employed through the drilling industry.

“Grand Prairie is way different from Columbus,” Fritz said. “Half the people are just there to work half the year, then they head back home when the season is over. People pretty much just come to make money in the oil fields. The city itself is about the size of Ohio State.”

Fritz was originally attracted to Ohio State after his cousin, Daymen Rycroft, suited up for the Buckeye hockey team from 2001-04. The close-knit relationship between the two made choosing the Buckeyes an easy decision for Fritz when Ohio State came calling during the recruiting process.

Although selecting Ohio State was a relatively simple choice, adjusting to a new life in Columbus was a greater challenge.

“It was crazy when I first got here, a real shell shock,” Fritz said. “The weather was especially something I had to adapt to. It gets really hot here. It’s also weird being around so many people. At home everything is much more isolated. 

“Most of my friends have never left home. I always try to explain football Saturdays in Columbus, but I guess it’s really something you have to see for yourself. It’s hard to understand what 100,000 people in a stadium looks like until you actually experience it.”

A capacity crowd of 102,329 in Ohio Stadium is nearly double the population of Fritz’s hometown.

Entering his junior season with the Scarlet and Gray, he is now settled into the lifestyle and culture of college life. He is planning to major in sport industry studies and minor in law.

“I want to play hockey for as long as I can, but my ultimate goal when I’m done is to either coach or become a player agent,” Fritz said. “Going to college instead of trying to turn pro gave me more time to mature and develop as a hockey player. Being able to get a college degree is huge as well. I want the full experience.”

Fritz was first introduced to hockey by his dad and brothers when he was around the age of four. His brothers grew up playing the sport and would often take him to outdoor rinks in the area to teach him the ins and outs of the game.

During his early teens, while playing junior hockey, he began to realize the different opportunities hockey could provide. For Fritz, an Academic All-Big Ten and Ohio State Scholar-Athlete, the most notable was the chance to pursue an education.

“Getting my degree is a big deal for both my family and me,” Fritz said. “It would just be huge for me, especially having a degree from Ohio State. It will be a good thing for my résumé.”

Although Fritz has a strong appreciation for impact of Ohio State on his personal development, his teammates are just as appreciative of his impact on their own. Selected as an alternate captain for the 2013-14 season, Fritz will help lead Buckeye hockey throughout its inaugural Big Ten campaign.

“As a team, we’re starting the new league, the Big Ten, so hopefully we can go in and make some noise,” Fritz said. “I’m not the loudest guy, to be able to talk and kind of rah-rah the guys. I’m more into leading by example on the ice, doing all the little things right.”

One thing Fritz is looking forward to most this season is the chance to play in front of his family when they journey to Columbus for a series in November. Much like his education, it is an opportunity Fritz both realizes and appreciates.

By Ashley Albertson, Athletics Communications